Climatic Change

, Volume 144, Issue 1, pp 65–79 | Cite as

Incomplete cooperation and co-benefits: deepening climate cooperation with a proliferation of small agreements

  • Phillip M. HannamEmail author
  • Vítor V. Vasconcelos
  • Simon A. Levin
  • Jorge M. Pacheco


Case study and model results lend some optimism for the potential of small coalitions with partially excludable public goods to substantially deepen international cooperation on energy and climate issues. Drawing motivation from other issue areas in international relations ranging from nuclear non-proliferation, transboundary air pollution and liberalized trade, we use an evolutionary-game-theoretic model to analyze regimes that yield domestic incentives to contribute to public goods provision (co-benefits). Co-benefits may be limited, but can create a nucleus for formation of coalitions that grow while deepening provision of global public goods. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) is a prime example of an agreement that employs partially excludable club benefits to deepen cooperation on non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Our game-theoretic results support two important insights for the building blocks approach to addressing climate change: sustained cooperation in club agreements is possible even when public goods are not entirely excludable and some members of the population free-ride; and second, cooperation in small club configurations yields larger non-excludable public goods benefits than cooperation in more inclusive forums. This paper lends positive support that a proliferation of small agreements under a building blocks approach at the UNFCCC may be more effective (not just more likely) for deepening climate change cooperation than a fully inclusive approach.


Public Good Coalition Member Global Public Good Climate Governance Club Good 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank seminar participants at Columbia University, Princeton University, and Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei for valuable comments. Bob Keohane, Michael Oppenheimer, Rob Socolow, Joanne Scott, and Christina Davis provided insightful feedback. P.M.H. and S.A.L. benefited from the support of the Global Collaborative Networks Fund at Princeton University. V.V.V. and J.M.P. are grateful to the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton for the support during their visitation. This research was supported by the Walbridge Fund in the Princeton Environment Institute at Princeton University, by an FQEB grant (FQEB #RFP-12-14) from the John Templeton Foundation and NSF support through grants EF-1137894 and GEO-1211972, by FCT-Portugal through grants SFRH/BD/86465/2012, PTDC/MAT/122897/2010, and by Portuguese funds (PIDDAC) - PEst-OE/BIA/UI4050/2014, and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian through the “Stimulus to Research” program for young researchers.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Author attribution

P.M.H. and J.M.P. designed the project; P.M.H. conducted the case study analysis; J.M.P., V.V.V., P.M.H., and S.A.L. designed and analyzed the model; P.M.H. and V.V.V. wrote the paper; All authors contributed intellectual content and commented on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phillip M. Hannam
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vítor V. Vasconcelos
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Simon A. Levin
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Jorge M. Pacheco
    • 2
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Science, Technology & Environmental Policy program, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International AffairsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Applications of Theoretical Physics Group, Centro de Matemática e Aplicações FundamentaisInstituto para a Investigação InterdisciplinarLisbon CodexPortugal
  3. 3.Centro de Física da Universidade do MinhoBragaPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  5. 5.Resources for the FutureWashingtonUSA
  6. 6.Beijer Institute of Ecological EconomicsStockholmSweden
  7. 7.Centro de Biologia Molecular e Ambiental (CBMA)Universidade do MinhoBragaPortugal
  8. 8.Departamento de Matemática e AplicaçõesUniversidade do MinhoBragaPortugal

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